Djungarian hamsters: species-appropriate husbandry

Are you thinking of getting a hamster? Maybe Djungarian dwarf hamsters are something for you: The little balls of fur are relatively easy to care for if you observe a few basic things for keeping them in a species-appropriate manner. We’ll show you how to offer your new flatmates the ideal new home and tell you what you should know beforehand.

Djungarian hamsters may be small, but they need plenty of exercise - Shutterstock / Chaonucha Tipsoontornpong

Djungarian hamsters may be small, but they need plenty of exercise – Shutterstock / Chaonucha Tipsoontornpong

Djungarian hamsters actually come from Siberia. If they are kept as pets, please do not keep them in the same cage with other dogs. They are true loners, but they can get used to people quite quickly. However, they are not cuddly animals.

Djungarian hamsters: appearance and colors

Djungarian hamsters are among the particularly cute representatives of the various hamster species. Their fur is usually multicolored: grey-brown on the back, light to white on the belly. In addition, there are now other color and piebald variants, for example in light gray or white. Breeders then call these coat colors “blue”, “blue” or “sapphire” (for light gray animals) or “pearl” (for white hamsters).

The contrast between the colors is intensified by the so-called three-curved line: on the animal’s flanks, gray-brown and light-colored fur contrasts in three curves. A black dorsal stripe also runs across the entire back from the head to the tip of the tail. Unlike other dwarf hamsters, the cute pets’ head is rather broad and round.

With a body length of up to nine centimetres, the Djungarian hamster is really tiny - Image: Shutterstock / Hintau Aliaksei
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Life expectancy: This is how long the cute pets get

Like most hamsters, Djungarian hamsters do not have a particularly long life expectancy. As a rule, the cute animals reach an age of 1.5 to 3 years. However, diseases can significantly reduce your pet’s life expectancy, especially if left untreated.

The problem: hamsters are masters at hiding diseases. You should therefore pay close attention to whether your pet’s behavior changes or whether (small) abnormalities appear in its appearance.

The most common diseases in Djungarian dwarf hamsters include mite and lice infestation. Other parasites can also nest in your hamster’s fur and skin. Also typical diseases are:

  • fungus
  • pneumonia and common cold
  • Diarrhea
  • Conjunctivitis and other eye diseases
  • Constipation or injury to the cheek pouch (for example, because the hamster has sharp or sticky objects hidden in its cheek pouches)
  • kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • uterine inflammation
  • Wet tail disease (only in animals aged 3 to 8 weeks)
  • Tumors (both benign and malignant)
  • Caries
  • Heat stroke (at a room temperature of 25 degrees Celsius or more)
  • salmonellosis
  • Meningitis (lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM), only in animals under 5 months of age)

Danger: Salmonellosis and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) are transmissible to humans. The latter can lead to malformations in the fetus or miscarriage in pregnant women! Therefore, when buying, make sure that your Djungarian hamster comes from an LCM-free breeder or pet shop.

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Everything to do with the cage: Prepare the housing appropriate to the species

Before you go and look for your dream dwarf hamster in the pet shop or at the breeding farm, you need a cage. This later represents the complete living environment of your new pet The interior should therefore be as varied as possible and the cage should be big enough.

A base area of ​​at least 100 x 50 cm is necessary and the best material is metal, not plastic. This is otherwise quickly gnawed, which can result in bad, in the worst case fatal injuries.

Now it’s time to set it up: hamsters roughly divide their living environment into three areas: sleeping chamber, storage corner and toilet. So make sure that the hamster not only finds at least these areas in the cage, but also a good, at least 20 centimeters thick floor covering made of straw and litter. Djungarian hamsters also like to build tunnels and dig in the ground for food, for example.

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For the evening activity (the rodents are nocturnal animals) at least one working wheel, but also various climbing facilities must be available. With a little manual skill, you can easily make bridges and climbing aids from several pieces of branch. Your pet shop also offers ready-made products such as climbing houses or snack bridges.

The Djungarian hamster is moving in

When the time comes and you are satisfied with your prepared cage, it is best to buy your hamster in the evening. Because he is awake anyway and is not under additional stress due to the disturbance of the peace during the day when he changes his surroundings stress. You should also ask your pet store to give you some bedding or straw from the old cage. A little of the familiar smell will move in and your new dwarf hamster will find it much easier to get used to it.

Even if your dwarf hamster hides at first and doesn’t want to come out: Don’t force anything. Dim the lights and wait for him to come out on his own. A few treats will help him get used to you.

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The right diet: feeding your Djungarian hamster properly

Young Djungarian Hamsters wolf down like dandelions and fresh grass from the meadow. In addition, they always need enough hay to freely dispose of. A seed mixture, dried herbs and some millet are also part of the menu. Later you can supplement this food with some fruit and vegetables.

The food must be free of pesticides and other residues. Therefore, carefully wash fruit and vegetables for your dwarves and only feed them small pieces at a time. Djungarian hamsters also need animal proteins, which they get from insects and mealworms. The latter are very high in fat and are therefore only recommended in small amounts.

This is how the Djungarian hamster feels particularly comfortable

A Djungarian hamster in the wild travels up to 30 km per night in search of food and a possible mate. If you now consider the dimensions of your cage, you will understand that you have to give your dwarf exercise at least once a week. To do this, you should first secure possible danger spots where he could injure himself and only let him into the run under supervision.

If, despite the good preparation of the run, the little rodent should hide somewhere or even disappear completely, wait patiently and make it palatable to retreat to its cage with a few treats.

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Your hamster will also be happy about a bowl of sand provided. He can roll around in this and keeps his fur shiny and clean. However, make sure to use particularly clean and fine-grained sand that is free of impurities and components that could injure your animal.

Otherwise, check the storage area daily for spoiled feed and also change unused drinking water. The toilet corner should also be checked daily and laid out with fresh litter.

A complete cleaning of the cage is only necessary once a week if it is divided up sensibly. Here you replace the entire bedding and thoroughly clean the cage of all debris. You then put back the straw and hay that have remained clean so that the hamster’s cage can continue to smell of its familiar surroundings.

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